Spanish Lessons


Para que: Saying "So That" in Spanish

Today's lesson will focus on the oft-used conjunction para que, which means "so that" or "in order for" in Spanish. 


Examples of para que in Spanish Sentences

Beginning with a few sentences that contain the Spanish conjunction para que, see if you can identify elements that they all have in common.


y ahora colocaré esta mezcla en la refrigeradora, para que se enfríe un poco,

and now, I'll put this mixture in the refrigerator so that it cools down a bit,

Captions 33-34, Ana Carolina Ponche navideño

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¿Pueden dejar de llorar para que empecemos la competencia?

Can you stop crying so that we can start the competition?

Caption 53, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 5

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y los invito a que pongan en práctica todas estas reglas para que puedan usar correctamente estas preposiciones.

and I invite you to put all these rules into practice so that you can use these prepositions correctly.

Captions 70-71, Carlos explica Las preposiciones 'por' y 'para' - Part 3

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Para que Parameters

Did you come up with any commonalities? Let's lay down a couple of ground rules for using para que in Spanish.


1. Para que should only be used when there is a change of subject.  

In other words, one thing is done by one entity so that another entity "can" do something else.  


Using the English translations, in the first example, "I" (the first subject) will put the mixture in the fridge so that "it" (the second subject) is able to cool down. In the second, "you guys" (the first subject) should stop crying so that "we" (the second subject) can commence the competition, and in the third, "I" (the first subject) am doing the inviting in order for you "you guys" (the second subject) to use the prepositions right.


* Note that in these Spanish sentences, the subjects are implied by their verb conjugations rather than explicitly stated (for example, as invito is the first person singular of the verb invitar (to invite), we know the subject is "I").


2. Para que is always followed by a subjunctive tense.

If we think of this in terms of our W.E.I.R.D.O. formula for when to use the subjunctive in Spanish, it makes sense since just because something "could" happen based on an initial action, we aren't sure if it will. You will note that two of three translations include the word "can," although this is not always the case, and there are often many ways to translate a Spanish that includes para que into English. 


Although all of the examples we have seen thus far have included verbs in the present subjunctive tense, you might come across examples in other subjunctive tenses, such as the imperfect subjunctive when the action takes place in the past. Let's take a look at some examples: 


Les dimos los juguetes, los bolígrafos, uno para cada uno para que pudieran escribir.

We gave them the toys, the pens, one for each one so that they could write.

Captions 8-9, Con ánimo de lucro Cortometraje - Part 4

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Lo que hice fue preparar todos los burros, para que estuviesen acostumbrados a recibir a visitas,

What I did was to prepare all the donkeys so they were used to getting visitors,

Captions 35-36, Amaya Apertura del refugio

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Alternative translations for this second example might be "so that they would be used to getting visitors" or "so that they could get used to getting visitors."


Expressing "So That" With No Subject Change

Although you might hear it done occasionally in spoken Spanish, remember that you should not use para que to connect clauses when there is no change of subject. For example, what if you wanted to say, "I'm going to call the restaurant as soon as possible so that I can get a table"? You shouldn't say Yo voy a llamar el restaurante lo antes posible para que (yo) pueda conseguir una mesa" but instead use para + the infinitive as follows:


Yo voy a llamar el restaurante lo antes posible para poder conseguir una mesa.

I'm going to call the restaurant as soon as possible so I can get a table (literally "to be able to get a table"). 


Let's see some more examples:


mis toallitas desmaquillantes, y mi espejo, donde me miro todas las mañanas para saber que estoy bien.

my makeup remover towelettes, and my mirror, where I look at myself every morning in order to know I look OK.

Captions 55-56, Amaya "Mi camper van"

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An alternative translation could be "so that I know I look OK."


Siempre hemos de asistir personalmente a la entidad bancaria para poder realizar la firma de todos los documentos originales.

We should always go personally to the banking entity in order to be able to do the signing of all the original documents.

Captions 13-14, Raquel Abrir una cuenta bancaria

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Another way to say this in English could be "so we can sign all of the original documents." In any case, because there is no change in subject in either of these examples (in the first one, it's yo/I and in the second one, it's nosotros/we), the formula para plus the infinitive was used in lieu of para que


¿Para qué?

To conclude, remember that when para qué is used in question or implied question form, it has an accent and means "why?" or "what for?" Let's see some examples:


¿Y para qué lo necesito?

And what do I need it for?

Caption 6, Clase Aula Azul Planes para el futuro - Part 1

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¿Para qué fuiste al cine?

Why [for what purpose] did you go to the movies?

Caption 53, Carlos explica Las preposiciones 'por' y 'para' - Part 1

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Keep in mind that although para qué can also be translated as "why" in some contexts, it has a slightly different meaning than por qué (which also means "why") in that it focuses on goal or purpose rather than strictly reason. For more on this subtle distinction, check out this video on the Spanish prepositions por vs. para.


That's all for today. We hope that this lesson has made the expression para que more clear para que la puedan usar bien (so that you can use it correctly) and sound like a native speaker. And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments


Impersonal "Se" Vs. Passive "Se": What's the Difference?

What's the difference between the impersonal "se" construction and the passive "se" construction in Spanish? Although they look rather similar (and may be confused with reflexive verbs as well!), they function slightly differently, which we hope to illuminate for you today. 




The Impersonal "Se" Construction in Spanish

“Impersonal se" constructions, which consist of the pronoun "se" plus a verb conjugated in the third person singular, are called such because they describe people in general rather than any specific person. In other words, no specific agent performs the action of the verb. For this reason, impersonal "se" constructions are used to describe, for example, the manner in which things are done customarily in a particular place or to convey general principles. In English, we tend to express such concepts by using the universal “you,” “they,” “one,” “people," or sometimes omitting the personal pronoun altogether. Let’s take a look at some examples from our Yabla Spanish library. 



Bueno, se baila mucho, eh... se come bastante, y se espera hasta las doce para desear la feliz Navidad.

Well, people dance a lot, um... people eat quite a bit, and people wait until twelve to wish [people] Merry Christmas.

Captions 42-44, Cleer y Lida La Navidad en Colombia

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Note that all the verbs in this example are conjugated in the third person singular, and the speaker describes actions that are done customarily (by people in general rather than a specific person) during the Christmas season in Colombia. And, while the translator opted to employ "people" to express this idea, the same sentence could read, "you dance a lot... you eat quite a bit... and you wait..." or, more formally, "one dances... one eats... and one waits." Let's take a look at another example:



Se duerme de noche y se vive de día

One sleeps at night and lives during the day

Caption 38, Calle 13 No hay nadie como tú

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The lyrics to this catchy tune by Calle 13 refer to the way things are in the world in general, where "one sleeps" (or "you" or "people sleep") at night and live during the day. Let's move on to the next example:



Es mi furgoneta, una camper van, una furgoneta camperizada, que se dice en español.

It's my van, a camper van, a "furgoneta camperizada" [camper van], like you say in Spanish.

Captions 9-10, Amaya "Mi camper van"

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Alternative translations for se dice in this sentence include "like people say," "as is said," or "like they say" because its intention is to describe what something is customarily called in Spanish. Are you getting the hang of it? 



Y juntas vamos a ver algunas de aquellas situaciones que os podéis encontrar en algunos de aquellos países en donde se habla español.

And together, we're going to look at some of those situations that you might encounter in some of those countries where Spanish is spoken.

Captions 4-6, Karla e Isabel Alquilar una habitación - Part 1

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Se habla español is impersonal because it explains that people in general speak Spanish in certain countries, rather than any specific person. An alternative choice here might have been" "in some of those countries where they speak Spanish." Let's look at one last one: 



Ahora se llega a la cima bajando por la sierra

Now you reach the summit by going down the mountain

Caption 23, Calle 13 Ojos Color Sol ft. Silvio Rodríguez

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Note that directions are another common thing for which the impersonal "se" construction is utilized. This is similar to English, where we ask "How do you get there?" (¿Cómo se llega ahí?" in Spanish) when what we really want to find out is the objectively correct way to go. 




The Passive "Se" Construction in Spanish 

In contrast to the impersonal "se" construction in Spanish, in the passive "se," although a specific agent usually does perform the action, said agent is often unknown or unmentioned. Furthermore, the verb in this construction must be a transitive verb, or verb that transmits some action to a direct object. So, this would describe something that "is" or "was" done, for example, to something else, which is most typically inanimate (non-living). Additionally, the verb can be singular or plural depending upon whether the noun/direct object in question is singular or plural, which is not the case with the impersonal "se" construction, where the verb is always singular. Let's look at some examples:



de una habitación que se alquila en un piso compartido.

about a room that is being rented in a shared apartment.

Caption 17, Karla e Isabel Alquilar una habitación - Part 1

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Here, someone specific is renting out a room in a shared apartment; we just don't know who it is. The verb alquilar is a transitive verb because a direct object (una habitación, or "a room") receives its action. And, since the noun una habitación is singular, the verb has been conjugated in its third person singular form: alquila



Aquí se venden barcos, ¿no?

Here boats are sold, right?

Caption 78, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 20

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This example is similar in that the agent who is selling boats is unknown, and the verb vender (to sell) is transitive because it exerts its action onto the noun (los) barcos. However, because the noun los barcos is plural, the verb has been conjugated in the third person plural: venden



¿Mi confianza? Se perdió desde el día que me dejaste caer del columpio del parque a los dos años. 

My trust? It was lost the day that you let me fall off the swings in the park at two years old.

Captions 14-15, La Familia Cheveroni Capítulo 1 - Part 3

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The verb perder is transitive because a direct object (la confianza or "the trust") is, or in this case "was" lost (since it is conjugated in the preterite, or simple past tense). And, although the speaker is telling his father that he himself lost his confidence when his father let him fall from the swings, he opts to use the passive "se" construction se perdió, or "was lost," which doesn't specify that anyone actually did the losing. Let's look at another example.



Otra de las hipótesis, de para qué se construyeron estos edificios, era para albergar ritos que se hacía en aquella época

Another one of the hypotheses about why these buildings were built was to house rites that were held during that era

Captions 44-46, Rosa Los Dólmenes de Antequera

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Here, we know who "built" (the transitive verb) "the buildings" (the direct object) in question: the ancient civilizations of Andalusia. But, since the sentence does not mention this agent, it employs the passive "se" construction to convey the idea that the buildings (los edificios) "were built" (se construyeron) in the past, utilizing the third person plural conjugation of construir (to build) in the preterite tense. Let's finish with one last example:



La película más importante que se ha rodado en Guatemala y es cien por ciento guatemalteca es Ixcanul.

The most important movie that has been filmed in Guatemala and is one hundred percent Guatemalan is "Ixcanul."

Captions 17-18, World Travel Market en Londres Maria nos habla de Guatemala

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All of the same conditions have been met for the passive "se" construction: 1. the verb rodar (to film) is transitive: it exerts its action onto la película (the movie). 2. While we know that specific people filmed the movie, the sentence does not reference who they are. 3. The verb has been conjugated in the third person singular (this time in the present progressive tense) because the noun/direct object la película (the movie) is singular. 


We hope that this lesson has helped you to learn to distinguish the impersonal "se" construction from the passive "se" construction in Spanish, which can be a bit confusing. Se ha terminado la lección de hoy (Today's lesson has finished), and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments




Afuera vs Fuera

Let's talk about adverbs! In this lesson, we have a big match: afuera vs. fuera. Do you know the meaning of these two words? Let's explore how to use and pronounce these frequently used Spanish adverbs.


The meaning of afuera and fuera

As an adverb, afuera refers to a place that is outside of where you are:


Todo lo malo me pasa dentro de esta casa, no afuera.

All the bad things happen to me inside this house, not outside.

Caption 20, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta

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Similarly, the adverb fuera is used to talk about the exterior part of something:


Puedes ir a tomar café a una cafetería fuera de la escuela.

You can go to drink coffee at a cafe outside of the school.

Caption 17, El Aula Azul - Las actividades de la escuela

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Using afuera and fuera to indicate movement

If you want to indicate that someone is going outside, toward the exterior, or even abroad (with verbs of movement), you can use either afuera or fuera. Both forms are correct and are used indistinctly in both Spain and Latin America. Let's see some sentences:


Vení, vamos afuera.

Come, let's go outside.

Caption 28, Yago - 9 Recuperación

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Cuando los cuatro compañeros nos fuimos a estudiar fuera.

When we four friends went to study abroad.

Caption 7, Escuela de Pádel Albacete - Hablamos con José Luis

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Using afuera and fuera to indicate a condition or state

When you want to indicate that someone or something is outside, or when you want to make a reference to the outside world, you use fuera in both Spain and Latin America. However, it is also very common to use afuera throughout the Americas. Let's hear the pronunciation of these two words one more time:


¡Qué lindo que está afuera! ¿No? El clima está divino.

How nice it is outside! No? The weather is divine.

Caption 15, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto

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Me doy una buena ducha aquí fuera.

I take a good shower here outside.

Caption 31, Amaya - "Mi camper van"

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The interjections afuera and fuera

Both afuera and fuera can be used as interjections. Generally speaking, you use these interjections when you ask someone to leave a place. 


¡Suficiente, fuera de mi casa!

Enough, out of my house!

Caption 61, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 4

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Idiomatic expressions with fuera

There are several useful idiomatic expressions with the word fuera. Let's see some of them:


Este hombre vive fuera de la realidad, Señoría.

This man lives outside of reality, Your Honor.

Caption 36, Los casos de Yabla - Problemas de convivencia

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Su ropa está fuera de moda.

His clothes are out of fashion.

Caption 8, Extr@: Extra en español - Ep. 1 - La llegada de Sam

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No hay nada fuera de lo normal.

There isn't anything out of the ordinary.

Caption 38, Negocios - Empezar en un nuevo trabajo

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That's it for today. We hope this review helps you to use correctly the adverbs fuera and afuera. As you could see throughout this lesson, more than talking about afuera vs fuera, we should really treat this subject as afuera = fuera! Keep that in mind and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions

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